August 2, 2011 - Arrival in Germany
Frankfurt am Main / Hofheim / Laufdorf
We have arrived. The plane pulled in at 10:10 a.m. into Frankfurt am Main, one of the busiest international airports in Europe. We de-planed quickly and proceeded to have our passports stamped, and then followed all of the signs to Baggage Claims. John noticed that most signs were in both German and English. “I think I’m going to be just fine,” he announced. He was relieved, as he speaks no German, that language will not prove to be a barrier.
We met my Aunt Doris and Uncle Herbert shortly after rolling our baggage out Gate 5. When we saw their tiny Peugot 206 SW, we were somewhat concerned whether our full-size suitcases and carry-on luggage would fit, but with a little tilting, turning and stacking, we were on our way to our next destination, Hofheim.
|Left to right: Judy, Aunt Doris, John|
Interestingly, most German towns and Länder (states) have a unique coat of arms. Below is the one for Hofheim.
Hofheim, a picturesque little suburb of Frankfurt with rolling hills and twisting streets, is where my aunt and uncle have two lovely friends named Angela and Harald. Technically speaking, Angela is my aunt's cousin. She and Harald are a lively, healthy couple in their 80s who became friends with my father on his previous three trips to Germany in 2003, 2006 and 2008. They were excited to meet us, and welcomed us with a handshake and a hug at the same time. For me it was immediate immersion in the German language. Angela speaks Hochdeutsch (High German), which is the typical German spoken and written in school, but Harald speaks a strong local dialect of German, which for the most part I was able to decipher.
|Left to right: Harald, Angela|
We spent the better part of the afternoon with the couple, enjoying their hospitality and Angela’s marvelous culinary skills. To our surprise, Harald gifted us with an album filled with photos of my father's visits with them. Since my father passed away just this past July 6th, we found this to be an incredible kindness.
|Left to right: Angela, Aunt Doris, Harald, Dad|
Harald, who is an avid photographer, mentioned that the last photo in the album is a recent one and that he was sure we would recognize it. Amusingly, he caught our plane in flight as it was approaching the airport in Frankfurt, which is about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Hofheim. Apparently his house is right beneath the flight path of trans-Atlantic flights like ours!
We ate a light afternoon Mittagessen (noon meal) that is typical for Germans, consisting of homemade soup and flavorful hard rolls.
|Left to right: Aunt Doris, Harald, Judy, John|
Later it was time for Kaffeeklatsch (coffee break), when we sampled Angela’s marvelous home-baked treats, consisting of Berliner (jelly-filled doughnuts), Kaffeekuchen mit Kirschen (coffee cake with cherries), a Schokoladensahnenrolle (cream-filled chocolate roll), and delicate, chewy Florentine (also known as lace cookies) made with almonds, sugar and honey that melt in your mouth before you can swallow each bite.
|Left to right: Judy, John, Angela. The Florentine cookies are in the center of the table.|
We enjoyed very much our tour of their home, which was built in the early 1900s. I was surprised to hear that Angela and Harald maintain the beautiful landscaping pretty much themselves. Harald, who is a masterful wood worker, has made much of the cabinetry throughout the house. His tools are organized in a workroom that would be the envy of any professional. I suspect that much of the energy that Harald enjoys is the result of the fact that he swims 26 laps of a pool three or four times a week—an indoor pool, I might add, that he built with his own two hands.
On our way to my aunt and uncle's home in Laufdorf (which translates literally as "running village"), my Uncle Herbert stopped in front of an interesting restaurant featuring a nautical theme, which he was certain would interest John, a former U.S. Navy officer. At this point John and I were so sleepy from both food and our flight, that I am not sure either of us could tell you whether the restaurant was under construction or completed, but the photo below suggests the former.
After our visit, John and I weren’t sure we would have room for supper, but around 9:00 p.m. we did manage to squeeze it in. In Germany it is typical to eat a heavier meal around noon (similar to an American dinner, but smaller), and a smaller meal in the evening called Abendessen (larger than a typical American lunch). An afternoon coffee break with a slice of Kuchen (cake) is also common. We aren’t quite sure at this point how to enter what we eat into our WeightWatchers® log, but we figure that if we watch our portion sizes, we should be okay.